Loch Lomond, a curiosity among Scottish distilleries, has not really been on my radar much. Yes, they make a wide range of malts with all their different still setups (which is what makes them a curiosity) but you can seemingly count on the fingers of one one hand the number of these that anyone has ever gotten very excited about. An Old Rhosdhu 24, 1979 from Murray McDavid was the first one I had that I really liked but that was an independent. The official releases were seemingly solidly in the “ugh” to “eh” range for most reviewers. But then earlier this year I drank this Croftengea—one of Loch Lomond’s peated variants—bottled by the distillery for The Whisky Exchange and I just loved it (see that review for a rundown of Loch Lomond’s variations). Unlike the Old Rhosdhu it was young and seemed likely to better represent the distillery’s current output. And so when I saw the current version of the Loch Lomond 12 for <$30 in a Minneapolis store in early November, I picked up a bottle. A 12 yo malt at 46% and for less than $30—it seemed like a good bet. I cracked it open that night and liked it enough to make it the “fruity whisky” pick for the updated version of my “The Well-Rounded Single Malt Bar” list. Here’s why.
Loch Lomond 12 (46%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Quite a rich nose with roasted malt, toasted oak and a bit of fruit (orange, lemon and something musky as well). Not much change with time. With a drop or three of water there’s sweeter red fruit and vanilla.
Palate: On the palate there’s some leafy peat along with the malt and oak and then a small fruity burst as I swallow (peach?). The texture is a bit thin but it packs a big bite at 46%. As it sits the oak gets a little bit too bitter but not off-puttingly so; on the plus side, the fruit expands as well and keeps doing so with time. Water deepens the texture and the fruit.
Finish: Medium-long. That burst of fruit keeps going and develops in a tropical direction (passionfruit, plantain). The bitter note pops up here too with time. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This was a very pleasant surprise. Its fruity character is very much in line with that TWE Croftengea, though far more subdued at the lower strength. Which leads me to wonder: why are stores and indie bottlers not releasing single cask Loch Lomonds at higher strengths? Or are they and I’ve just not noticed? Anyway, this is hard to beat at the price. If you do follow my lead and get a bottle I advise giving it some time and a bit of water.
Rating: 84 points.